Dmitry Medvedev has launched a wide-ranging attack on the Soviet Union as a totalitarian state that crushed individual liberties in the most outspoken comments on the USSR by a Russian leader in recent years.Mr Medvedev's comments, which also included stinging criticism on the historical role of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, will be interpreted by many as an attempt to distance himself from Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, who has adopted a more ambiguous stance on Russia's often tragic history.
In an interview Mr Medvedev declared that nothing could justify Stalin's crimes against his own people."Despite the fact that he worked a lot, and despite the fact that under his leadership the country recorded many successes, what was done to his own people cannot be forgiven."
He also spoke out strongly against any attempts to rehabilitate Stalin and sought to distance the Kremlin from a series of recent moves to rekindle his memory.
"This is not happening and it will not happen," he said. "It is absolutely out of the question. It is not right to talk about Stalinism returning to our everyday lives." But it is his comments on the USSR itself which are likely to rankle the most with many older Russians.
Mr Putin has called the collapse of the USSR the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century" but Mr Medvedev gave the impression he had few regrets about its demise.
"The Soviet Union was a very complicated state and if we speak honestly the regime cannot be called anything other than totalitarian," he said. "Unfortunately this was a regime where elementary rights and freedoms were suppressed."Story thanks to telegraph.co.uk